Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Website Devoted to My Book, "From 6 to 9 and Beyond"

Hello all,

It is with great pleasure that I unveil my latest project, From 6 to 9 and Beyond: Widening the Lens of Feminine Eroticism." You may recall all those videos blogs I did in July and August, as well as the Indiegogo campaign I ran.

Well, as the book unfolds, I am posting excerpts from the stories and poetry and pictures! You can find them all at one place at the url below. Be sure to check back for more updates as the book unfolds!

"From 6 to 9 and Beyond: The Virgin"
Photo Credit: Sequoia Emmanuelle

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Max J. Van Praag: Bringing Sexual “Private Matters” to the Public.

When was the last time you had a frank and multi-perspective conversation about G-spot orgasm?

How about porn addiction? Or being an “ethical slut”?

Virgins over 30? Power play? BDSM?

While, for many of us living in mainstream America, the answer may be “never,” it’s simply a day in the life of Talk Show Host, Max J. Van Praag, founder of the Private Matters TV show.

Private Matters is a San Francisco Bay Area-based series (though episodes are available to watch online from anywhere in the world) that interviews sex and relationship coaches, teachers, therapists and experts with a variety of specialties.

The show’s mission is to awaken men and women to their erotic potential through raising awareness of the many aspects of sexuality and bringing these kinds of topics to the mainstream. The belief is that through raising awareness of sexuality, intimacy can arise, shame can be released and old wounds can be healed.

Mr. Van Praag is so passionate about his mission that he has personally financed the first 40 episodes of Private Matters. Now, he wants to go bigger. More episodes, higher profile guests, a greater reach of people and broadcast on major television networks—which is why he is ambitiously raising $150,000 via Indiegogo to improve the quality of his show and to develop a website portal with advice, products, workshops and links to sexuality teachers.

In the following interview, Mr. Van Praag delves deeper into his inspirations, desires and personal relationship to his own sexuality and reveals why he is so passionate about bringing Private Matters to the public.
1. Who are you and where are you from? What did you do in your “previous life” (before starting Private Matters)? 
I was born in Holland, and have lived in several countries growing up. I am a polyglot (fluent in five languages) and consider myself a citizen of the world. After my studies in the performing arts, classical music and psychology, I came to the US from Holland in the mid-nineties to study and do research in human development and spiritual growth. I first lived and worked in a large workshop retreat center in the Catskill Mountains, then settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1996. I have also facilitated seminars in self-expression.
2. What inspired you to create Private Matters? 
My own life journey and learning with women and the awareness that both of those may serve a greater purpose. [I was also inspired by] watching the movie Bliss in the nineties. This profound and beautiful movie brings potent knowledge about sexual healing into the mainstream. I shared the movie with hundreds [of people] and decided to create art and media with similar messages. As I explored various possibilities, I finally settled on the talk show format. 
3. Why are these topics so important to you and how do they affect you personally? 
I am passionate about bringing messages about intimacy and sexual awakening into the main stream. I love to take people to new places and I know that I am extremely comfortable in some of these controversial, edgy, taboo areas where most people are not. Nothing shocks me. Also, the quickly growing interest in these topics in our culture is apparent. Look at all the TV shows and movies coming out: Fifty Shades of GreyThanks for SharingThe Sessions, etc. 
4. Describe your relationship to your own sexuality. 
I am a romantic at heart and am deeply moved by powerful love stories and by people walking their own path. Many of my relationships and connections with women have been powerful, catalyst experiences for healing and growth, both for her and myself. I think I am a very good communicator and I love that about myself. I am also really comfortable with who I am sexually as a man and I make it a point not to label myself but to stay open to what is most loving and fulfilling in any particular situation. 
5. Who has been your favorite interviewee so far? 
One of my favorites, because of her niche, is Marion van der Stad in Holland, an intimacy coach who only works with virgins over 30 years old. There are more people in their forties, fifties and sixties who have never had sex. This is news for many viewers—just watch the new feature film The Sessions. 
6. Whom would you most like to interview (the person can be living or dead)? 
David Deida. It will happen! I remember when I had just moved to California in 1996. I had the trunk of my car filled with the first version of The Way of The Superior Man in spiral bound format to give away to all my friends. 
7. What has Private Matters accomplished so far? 
40+ episodes about different topics, viewed by over 100,000 people worldwide, [along with] many letters from people thanking me for influencing the way they relate and communicate. 
8. What is your desire for Private Matters in the future? 
A high-caliber show that is trusted and watched by millions worldwide, and that changes peoples intimate lives. A show that networks want to broadcast, with a live studio audience and bigger sets in the US and Europe.

Inspiring 97-Year Old Woman Makes Me Want to Dance.

My grandmother always told me “Age is just a number.”

She doesn’t let society’s view of “age-appropriate behavior” get in the way of her fun. Which is why I believe she looks incredible and has the energy of someone half her age (I won’t reveal how old she is, since another one of her mottos is “A lady never reveals her age“).

As a woman rapidly approaching her mid-thirties, I take a great deal of comfort in this. I am not immune to societal beliefs of “women” and “age”. We hear about 40+ year-old Hollywood actresses going to great lengths, i.e. plastic surgery, crazy dieting, etc, to remain “leading lady material.” Several of Maxim’s  ”Hot 100 List of the World’s Most Beautiful Women” are barely old enough to buy alcohol. And how many hot, senior sex scenes have you seen in TV shows lately? Not many.

Even the medical community is in on it. What’s the number of diseases a woman is prone to get once she’s reached menopause? How many more annual medical checkups should I be getting past 35? And should’t I be pregnant by now?!?!?

While there is scientific validity in the need to put more attention on one’s health past a certain age, the “fear of death” and “age-shame” that often comes with “the science” is something I’m choosing to leave behind.

Which is why I am so inspired by the woman known as “Dancing Jane.”

She was recently featured in one of The Good Line’s mini-documentaries.

At 85-years old, she discovered she could do “the splits,” after years of erroneously thinking she couldn’t due to a casual comment made by a high-school classmate, and even made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to demonstrate her abilities.

Now at 97, she shares her story and the many things she chose to do because she wanted to do them, regardless of what her circumstances told her was “possible.”

She mentions that fear is one of the biggest things that keeps us back and advises us that there is nothing stopping us from doing what we want to do with life.

So thank you, Dancing Jane, for bringing your elder wisdom and teaching us that love, fun, humor and compassion are really what this life’s all about—and that getting older is an opportunity to cultivate more relationships in which to share those gifts.

Let’s dance.

4 Tips to Keep Passion Alive in Long-Term Relationships.

Those were the days my friend—we thought they’d never end.

We’ve all been there. The start of a relationship. That crackling, electric time when you can’t help but just soak up every drop of your new infatuation and every private moment is spent in the throes of passion.

Until it’s one year, five years, 10 years (or more) later. You’re now more concerned about whether he or she picked up toothpaste from the store rather than what position you want to try tonight.

You know which foods give him or her gas. You’re harboring a secret (or-not-so-secret) resentment towards his or hercleaning habits. The mystery has shifted to TMI.

But you still love your partner. You still think they are gorgeous and awesome and you want to rekindle the spark.

So what do you do?

Of course, simply admitting the truth that you are both hungering for more intimacy (as well as any other withheld communications) is a huge step towards increasing the turn-on, but where do you go from there?

In the following video, I’ll share with you 4 of my favorite tips to help rekindle the passion in your long-term relationship.

6 (Non-Linear) Steps to an Orgasmic Life. (Part Two)

In my previous article, I described a new definition of orgasm and talked about what it means to live an orgasmic life.

In this piece, we’ll dive deeper into the 6 (non-linear) steps to an orgasmic life.

Why non-linear? Great question.

First, orgasm (like life) isn’t linear. One minute we are up, the next we are down. Last week we went right, but this week we may be called left. One great success can turn into a massive failure and one embarrassing failure can morph into our greatest success. Through orgasm, we are cultivating a very dynamic and paradoxical way of seeing the world. To slap linear construct on top of that would limit our perspective of what’s possible.

Second, the first two steps are more like anchors that help us through each of the others. Anytime we feel our resolve getting shaken or the voices of fear overtake us, steps one and two are there to help us anchor into the present. Also, the steps themselves aren’t like climbing up a ladder, but more like walking in a spiral—the moment you find yourself at “the end,” you discover you are actually at a new beginning.

Finally, the steps themselves are simply guidelines for possible experience. The moment you step into Step 3, you may find yourself back to Step 1 or catapulted into Step 6. You may be experiencing Step 2 all the way though Steps 3-6. And this is by no means the complete and definitive list of how to live an orgasmic life. There’s lots of room forimprovisation and innovation. Ultimately these “steps” are about gathering tools and using them when the moment calls for it.

So, without further ado, I offer you 6 (Non-Linear) Steps to an Orgasmic Life.

1. Attention
This may be the most difficult for most of us, especially in an iPhone addicted, Facebook skimming, TV watching world—which is why it is so important to get this concept first before moving on. So much of our lives is spent obsessing over the past or trying to control the future. We look outside of ourselves to inform us about who we are rather than looking within. We are rarely here and now. We are worrying about how we look and what people will think. We hide from our power through any variety of subtle (and not so subtle) addictions.

Orgasm demands our full attention on the present so we can actually feel what’s here. Bringing your focus to the present, perhaps on your body, your breathing or some truth you want to speak, helps us connect directly to our desire, which is the mouthpiece of an orgasmic life.

2. Approval
Just as important as attention is the concept of approval. Approval is the ability to say ‘yes’ to what is happening in any moment and is the key to ‘turn-on’, i.e. the capacity for us to allow orgasm to flow freely through our bodies. Approval isn’t about being a pushover or a milquetoast. You can set a firm boundary of “No” and still be in approval of that which is happening, because you are a “Yes” to yourself and a “Yes to loving” to whomever you are speaking.

Approval is the radical acceptance of all that is happening as absolutely perfect. Approval is the willingness to let go of the struggle to “be right” and simply just “be.” Even in the midst of our pain, can we open up and say ‘yes’ to all that we are feeling? Can we approve of our anger? Our tendency to blame? Our judgments that things should be other than they are? Can we even be in approval of our disapproval?

On the flip side can we approve of our pleasure? Can we open ourselves to the divinity that we are? Can we approve of our power and desire and allow it to guide us, even when it means being vulnerable? In order for us to move in the direction of our desire, we must first be in approval of where we are.

3. Ask
Once we have our attention on the present and are in approval of it, desire naturally arises. So what do we do with it? We ask for what we want, of course. Desire is vocal and if we sit around just waiting for life to happen to us, chances are we aren’t going to gather a lot of steam. So often we resort to subtle manipulation and sideways tactics and blaming people for not being mind-readers, when all we have to do is ask. Asking for what we want is a HUGE risk. It means the possibility of rejection and ridicule and being told we aren’t “good enough” to have it. It also means taking responsibility for ourselves and placing a stake in the ground for our desire.

Oftentimes, we don’t even know the specifics of what we want. All we can do is ask for help. This is just as good a prayer as any. Surrender to that unknown (or known) desire. Ask with sincerity. Be willing to go on the ride, even though you have no idea how it’s all going to turn out. That’s part of the fun, right?

4. Activation
Activation is the spark that occurs between us and life. It’s the ignition of orgasm and the gracious reception of it. It’s the sweaty palms as you lean in for your first kiss. It’s the beating of your heart before you go onstage. It’s the quickening of your breath as you sign your first client. Simply put, it’s the moment your mind, body and soul click into place and we are in total acceptance of our lives.

Activation is a key moment and one that requires the help of attention and approval. Oftentimes, when the energy gets high and we let go, we lose our focus or start to struggle for solid ground. This is where faith comes in. The universe has got it handled. Just breathe, soften and open.

5. Allowance
Once the spark of orgasm starts to flame through our lives, we must resist the urge to contract out of fear or the belief that we are undeserving of this amount of energy, be it attention, money, pleasure, etc. Allowance is the capacity to open wider and receive more. In sex, we often rush to the climax to try to expel the energy out of our body as quickly as possible. We do this in life too. Perhaps we rush towards anger or victimization or binging or going on a shopping spree.

Allowance holds us in the truth that we are capable of feeling so much more and that if we simply ride the edge,unfathomable amounts of pleasure are possible. Be willing to ride that edge, rather than rush to climax (unless climax is what is authentically being expressed in the moment—then ride that all the way down to the bottom).

6. Acknowledgement
Acknowledgement is a skill that automatically flips any perspective from suffering to celebration. Acknowledgement is recognizing just how much the world is conspiring for our success. It’s gratitude in the face of tears. It’s the willingness to share your orgasm with humility and generosity. Acknowledgement fosters compassion through its ability to see how connected we are. My success is your success. My pain is your pain. My healing is your healing. It’s the ability to simply name what it happening and love it as an integral teacher on the journey.

So rather than complain, acknowledge the blessing of life. Give profound and unabashed thanks for the miracle that it took for you to be alive in this moment. From this place, we can truly be of service to humanity and give back from a place of joy and fullness, which is the ultimate gift of an orgasmic life.

6 (Non-Linear) Steps to an Orgasmic Life. (Part One)

I hear it all the time from my clients:
“My relationship is boring”
“My life is so blah”
“I’m stuck in a job that I hate”
“I eat/shop/fuck/diet to numb myself from my emotions”
“My sex life is non-existent”
“I’m afraid I’ll lose control”
“Everything feels so stagnant”
“I don’t know what I want”

Fortunately, I know what they want: orgasm.

Not necessarily sexual climax (though that can be quite a lot of fun), but a high-octane shot of The Orgasmic Life.

So what does all that mean?

Orgasm, as I define it, is that living, breathing life force that births every moment. It’s that energy wakes us up and reminds us how alive we are.

If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you may have heard the word pranaIf you are into acupuncture, you may have heard the term chi. Both of these are good analogies for the kind of orgasm of which I speak.

When we think of orgasm in these terms, we realize that this force is accessible in any moment, not just in the bedroom. And when we learn to identify and work with this energy (and its partner, desire), we open the door to an Orgasmic Life.

An Orgasmic Life is a dynamic life.

Each moment is a fresh one. It’s a life full of wonder, passion, electricity, surrender, pleasure and aliveness.
While that may all sound amazing and exactly like what you want, an Orgasmic Life also requires risk, a willingness to change in any moment and trust in the unknown.

Our little reptilian, survival brains are wired at an early age to keep us safe. Don’t color on the walls, lest we make mommy mad (and lose her love). Don’t take center stage, lest we end up the object of public ridicule (and be ostracized). Don’t touch ourselves pleasurably, lest we be shamed (and labeled as “perverts”).

Or it could have been more sinister. To rebel against our conditioning may have resulted in some sort of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Thus we’ve grown up in a world that values security and linear thought: If I make straight A’s and go to college and get a stable job and make a lot of money, I will attract a member of the opposite sex and get married and have kids and be happy.

While this may be exactly the right way of life for someone, for many of us, it just doesn’t work that way. We have the intuition that there is more. More of life to see, experience and love. We get the sense that we’ve been settling for OK, rather than reaching for our potential. We’ve chosen a life of numbing the chronic pain that is trying to tell us somethingrather than feel it all, learn from it and expand our pleasure threshold.

To be clear, an orgasmic life takes an infinite number of forms. It’s less about changing the external circumstances and more about your perception of those conditions. A vendor selling coconuts on the beach in India for 50 years may experience more orgasmic pleasure than a jet-setting, billionaire CEO.

It’s the how, rather than the what, that helps us tap into the orgasm already present and flowing in our lives.

In Part 2 of this article, I’ll list and explore the 6 (non-linear) steps to an orgasmic life.

Michelle Obama (Almost) Opens Up About Sex with The President

Photo credit: The Onion
View this article on Elephant Journal

The headline read: “Michelle Obama Opens Up in ‘Marie Claire’: Our Sex Life Has Never Been More Open, More Experimental, More Generous.”

I almost gushed my panties.

“Holy shit,” I thought. This is groundbreaking. The First Lady (of all people) speaking so candidly about sex. Not to titillate. Not to sell albums. But simply because it’s her desire. Because she’s a grown adult woman who deeply loves her man and wants to share the wisdom her relationship has taught her.

Then I read the article’s origin. America’s Finest News Source, The Onion.

But I clung to hope. Maybe Michelle Obama did give a candid interview to Marie Claire and maybe (just maybe) The Onion was mocking the interview.

Nope. One simple Google search revealed that no such interview occurred.

But what intrigued (and alarmed) me more in my internet findings was a vitriolic editorial from one writer and the corresponding comments in response to the article.

Ashley E. McGuire, a writer for Acculturated ,The Washington Post and many other publications, described the article as “sexually humiliating and disgusting,” and treated the president’s wife “like a dog.”


Was the article funny? Not particularly. 

A little tacky? Perhaps.

But disgusting? Well…only if you think sex is disgusting and that “dignified ladies” shouldn’t be having it.
And it’s exactly this Virgin/Whore double standard that is harming relationships and keeping women from claiming our erotic power.

Had the article been about Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus or Madonna, McGuire and her readers might have been more inclined to ignore it. Because society already perceives these women as  “slutty and stupid,” so they deserve sexual parody—and are probably already defiling themselves with the “disgusting” acts described in the article anyway.

But to insinuate that the First Lady has a sexual beast inside of her is not only distasteful, it’s degrading.
However, the truth is that every woman, no matter her status, job, race, creed, religion or any other labeled box we can stuff her into, has both the saint and the sinner (and infinite variations in-between) within her.

Plus, despite the satirical tone of The Onion’s article, I found some of what Mrs. Obama “said” rather refreshing and in alignment with my sexual values.
“Their sex life has never been more open, more experimental or more generous.”
Well that sounds like the goal of every couple with whom I work.
“A recent spike in the frequency and intensity of their lovemaking has resulted in the most satisfying and adventurous sex she has ever known.”
That sounds delicious.
“It doesn’t have to be a big production every time. Sometimes we’ll just do oral, or we’ll only use our hands.”
Dude! I want to scream this to the planet! Sex can be anything you want, anytime you want. We get all caught up in the script that ends in screaming intercourse and mutual climax that we miss the whole buffet of possibilities.
“I remember I actually stopped masturbating for a while because I started to feel like a less sexual, less desired person altogether.”
While this is an attempt at a joke, it’s actually a disheartening and accurate sentiment shared by many women in relationships where the sex has faded.
“Obama noted that as a lover, the President is now 100% available emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and that he’s never been more attentive or celebratory of her body.”
Men, take note. This is the very thing women want from you.
“Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint,” Obama added. “We’re riding a high right now, and I know it’ll dip again. That’s okay. That’s how it works. But for right now, I’m just enjoying this flood of hot, hungry sex with my husband.”
Godspeed, fake Mrs. Obama. Godspeed.

Granted, I can understand how The Onion’s references to the First Lady participating in threesomes, BDSM play and watching porn might ruffle some prudent feathers.

But then, that got me thinking: what if the first lady spoke as candidly about sex as any starlet. What if a classy, powerful woman were courageous enough to share her erotic journey (no matter how kinky it might be) with her partner and with the public.

What if we, as a society, could receive and celebrate this woman? Without embarrassment. Without the giggles and scandals and tee-hee-hees that often come with talking about celebrities’ sex lives. Without trying to denigrate or shame her.

What if…?

In my opinion, we need more frank conversations about sex, if only to stop feeding on the sensationalist pop culture that masquerades as sexuality.

We need to be revealing hidden fantasies and desires, if only to foster compassion by looking at each other and saying “Yes, I feel exactly the same way!”

We need more female role models declaring, with great love and dignity, “Yes, I am a sexual being,” if only to break through the private tyranny that comes with trying to be a “good girl.”

So perhaps, Ms. McGuire, The Onion left a bitter taste in your mouth.

However, to relegate any talk of the First Lady’s sexuality as “disgusting and defiling” only adds to the trauma we women already carry within our sexuality and tightens the noose around our already frightened throats.

Therefore, we need a public discourse about sex, if only so that publications like The Onion aren’t the only ones talking about (and subsequently lampooning) it.